Real Madrid, Atletico banned from transfer market

FIFA on Thursday banned Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from buying players for one year over their dealing in under-age players.

The ban will start from the July transfer window this year and finish with the January transfer market in 2017.

Atletico were also fined 900,000 Swiss francs (820,000 euros) and Real 360,000 francs.

“The two clubs were found to have violated several provisions concerning the international transfer and first registration of minor players as well as other relevant provisions with regard to the registration and participation of certain players in competitions,” said a FIFA statement.

Barcelona have just ended a one-year ban for similar reasons.

Photo Credits : AFP

Barca with La Liga title in sight after strike lifted

Barcelona can round off a fine week by clinching their 23rd La Liga title and exacting revenge on Atletico Madrid for losing out in last season’s title decider at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday.

A proposed players’ strike had threatened the La Liga calendar this weekend, but that threat was lifted on Thursday when Spain’s National Court concluded a strike would “cause a serious organisational disorder” to the end of the league season.

Atletico won the league with a 1-1 draw the Camp Nou on May 17 last year and Barca can return the favour exactly a year later as long as they match Real Madrid’s result at Espanyol.

Luis Enrique’s men remained on course for a treble by sealing their place in the Champions League final against Juventus early next month on Tuesday despite a first defeat in 19 games 3-2 away at Bayern Munich as the Catalans progressed 5-3 on aggregate.

“We are just one victory away in every competition from being champions,” said Enrique.

“The feelings are very positive. It is a great moment, but now we need to finish it off.

“The evaluation of the season will come at the end.”

– Atletico eye third place –

However, Atletico also have plenty to play for as they are one win away from sealing third place and therefore avoiding a tricky Champions League qualifier in August.

Fernando Torres came off the bench to score the equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Levante last weekend that guaranteed a top four finish for Diego Simeone’s men, but insisted he doesn’t want to see Barcelona celebrating at the Calderon on Sunday.

“I hope that they don’t win it here. We hope to win the game and assure third place,” he told the club’s website.

“Atletico were champions last year in the Camp Nou, and it is not that strange in football that destiny decides Barcelona have the chance to be champions in our stadium.

“That doesn’t mean anything to us though because it is not our fight. We want to be third and achieve the objective we have.”

Atletico’s chances could be boosted by the absence of Barca striker Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan set up both Barca’s goals, scored by Neymar, at the Allianz Arena in midweek but had to be replaced at half-time with a hamstring problem and it unlikely to be risked with the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals less than a month away.

Real Madrid have to pick themselves up from the bitter disappointment of losing their Champions League semi-final to Juventus in midweek if they are to have any chance of winning a major trophy this season.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti may have taken charge of his last game from the Madrid bench as he will serve a two-game touchline ban for their remaining Liga fixtures for sarcastically applauding the officials in last week’s 2-2 draw at Valencia.

Defender Sergio Ramos is also expected to miss the rest of the season with a calf injury picked up against Juventus.

The battle for European places and to avoid relegation means that only four teams have nothing to play for with two games remaining.

Valencia can secure their return to Champions League football with victory at home to Celta Vigo.

Meanwhile, Malaga, Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao, Celta and Rayo Vallecano are separated by four points in the fight for seventh place, which would yield Europa League qualification if Barca beat Athletic in the Copa del Rey final.

At the bottom, Eibar, Deportivo la Coruna and Granada are all locked on 31 points with Almeria just one point ahead.

Almeria could also still be docked three points should their appeal against that sanction from FIFA for unpaid transfer fees to foreign clubs be upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport later this week.

Fixtures

Sunday (all 1700 GMT)

Villarreal v Malaga, Elche v Athletic Bilbao, Deportivo la Coruna v Levante, Atletico Madrid v Barcelona, Real Sociedad v Granada, Cordoba v Rayo Vallecano, Getafe v Eibar, Espanyol v Real Madrid, Valencia v Celta Vigo, Sevilla v Almeria

Photo Credits : AFP

Torres proving doubters wrong, says Atletico boss Simeone

Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone claimed Fernando Torres’ double to take the La Liga champions into the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey at Real Madrid’s expense had proved the former Chelsea striker’s critics wrong.

Torres scored in the first minute of each half to ruin Cristiano Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or celebrations as the Cup holders were dumped out 4-2 on aggregate after a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu.

“When he came out of the academy he was a boy, too young for everything that happened then but he still responded well,” said Simeone.

“He went away, grew up and now is a man. I am very happy for him. In games like this he responds as he did.

“The fans are happy and his arrival has helped us, despite some people’s doubts.”

Torres was only handed a start due to an illness suffered by Mario Mandzukic in the day before the game, but his inclusion proved to be inspired as he slotted home from Antoine Griezmann’s cross after just 46 seconds.

Sergio Ramos levelled before the break, but Griezmann and Torres combined once more at the start of the second period before Ronaldo salvaged a draw on the night for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Simeone admitted such an early blow helped to sap the home side’s energy, but refused to accept Atletico now have the Indian sign over their neighbours after going five derbies unbeaten so far this season.

“Such an early goal changed the rhythm of the game. It wasn’t in the plan.”

“Every time we face Madrid we face an extremely strong team. They are the best team in the world, they just won the Club World Cup and the Champions League.”

Despite scoring his first two goals at the Bernabeu, Torres refused to hail his performance as his best in an Atletico shirt and reserved special mention for the part played by Griezmann in setting up both goals.

“To play at the Bernabeu is difficult. As soon as they equalised they could see a chance to go through, but the second goal allowed us closer to the finish line.

“We want to keep advancing in all competitions. We need to enjoy this moment because we are happy.

“It was a great game, but it is not my happiest day in Atletico shirt. I finished well today but it is thanks to Griezmann.”

Ancelotti lamented his side’s slow start to both halves, but believes elimination at such an early stage of the competition could help their defence of the Champions League.

“The key to the game was the two errors we committed at the start of each half, but we can’t forget other parts of the game like how we played in the first hour, which for me was spectacular.

“Now we have three weeks to prepare well for the Champions League and this is very good for the team.”

And Ronaldo agreed with his coach that the rest accumulated in the coming weeks should help them to finish the campaign strongly.

“We can’t take away the value of the Cup, but the league and the Champions League are more important.

“We always want to win, but we have to look at the positives. This will allow us to concentrate on other competitions.

“At times it is better to take one step back to then take two forward.”

Photo Credits : AFP

Atletico beat Real Madrid again on Torres’s return

Fernando Torres tasted victory against Real Madrid as an Atletico Madrid player for the first time as the La Liga champions downed their city rivals 2-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey last 16 tie on Wednesday.

Despite a disappointing performance from Torres on his first appearance since rejoining Atletico on loan from AC Milan, the hosts beat Real for the third time in four attempts this season thanks to Raul Garcia’s penalty and a thumping header from Jose Gimenez after half-time.

Last season’s Cup winners will now have it all to do when the two sides meet again for the return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu on January 15.

Both coaches signalled that their priorities lay elsewhere prior to kick off as Cristiano Ronaldo was left on the bench by Carlo Ancelotti, while Diego Simeone made seven changes to the side that beat Levante 3-1 at the weekend.

However, the hosts were indebted to one of those coming into the side after just two minutes when Jan Oblak brilliantly parried a towering header from Sergio Ramos, reminiscent of his equaliser in the Champions League final between the two sides in May which swung the match in Real’s favour.

The visitors then had a goal rightly ruled out from another setpiece as Gareth Bale was flagged offside when he headed James Rodriguez’s free-kick into the far corner.

Straight from the free-kick, Atletico then had their first effort on goal as Oblak released Antoine Griezmann with a long ball and his low effort was turned behind by Keylor Navas.

Griezmann was then presented with Atletico’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes when he robbed Rafael Varane and closed in on goal, but his French international team-mate recovered to avert the danger with a fine last-ditch challenge.

Torres, meanwhile, was enduring a nightmare opening half as he consistently gave the ball away and was caught offside on numerous occasions.

Real passed up a couple of half chances to go in ahead at the break as Benzema fired straight at Oblak before Sami Khedira headed over when unmarked inside the area.

The visitors also had the first opening of the second period when Bale prodded wide from a narrow angle.

However, it was Atletico who finally made the breakthrough when Garcia was adjudged to have been pulled down by Ramos and the midfielder composed himself to fire low into Navas’s left-hand corner.

Torres’s disappointing evening ended early as he was replaced by Koke, while Ancelotti quickly summoned Ronaldo from the bench in the bid for an away goal, with Rodriguez making way.

Yet, the World Player of the Year made little impact on Atletico’s well-marshalled defence and centre-back Gimenez then proved to be a hero at the other end as he rose highest to power home Koke’s corner 13 minutes from time.